BERLIN, Germany – At the first plenary session this morning, here at the NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development observing the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, a speaker who participated in ICPD in Cairo in 1992 recalled how the stars had aligned that year and for the two following years to produce something important in sexual and reproductive health and rights amid a sea of “bad years.” She cited three developments that led to this historic alignment:
- The existence of a charismatic and committed leader, Undersecretary of State Tim Wirth, who was unrelenting in pushing forward the agenda of the ICPD;
- A supportive American administration – Bill Clinton had just been elected president less than two years before – and Democratic Congress; and
- An increasingly sophisticated non-governmental organization movement which played a leading role in making ICPD a reality.
She said this alignment started falling apart in late 1994 when conservative Republicans took control of congress and the Clinton Administration lost its early momentum.
When I talked to this same woman later in the day, she said she sees a similar aligning of the stars happening now – a progressive and supportive American administration and Congress and an NGO movement that, if anything, is more sophisticated than it was in 1994. The only thing missing, she said, is a charismatic and committed leader like Tim Wirth.
Later in the evening, I talked to another person who had been in Cairo in 1992 as a senior U.S. government official. He agreed with this scenario but thinks it is still possible for such a leader to emerge in our times. Specifically, he mentioned Secretary of State Hilary Clinton as such a leader.